The three great classic reliability trials organised by the MCC have their own special charisma following a format which is essentially unchanged from the very earliest days of trialling. Within nine years of its foundation in 1901, the MCC was running trials from London to Edinburgh, London to Lands End and London to Exeter – and back in each case – as well as the occasional jaunt from the top of Scotland to the bottom of Cornwall. These are the events that the three MCC classics still copy and, indeed, the route of today’s Lands End Trial follows much of that used in the early days of the last century and includes hills that have changed little since the 1930s.
There are plenty of events for vintage and classic cars and bikes but for the most part these are run on modern circuits, and under today’s rules, often creating a somewhat false atmosphere. In the MCC it is the event which is ‘vintage and classic’ and gives today’s competitor the chance to share the same experience that his, or her, grandfather enjoyed many years ago. Some competitors choose to do this in a period car, some will compete in a modern trials car or bike, while others will choose a near standard road vehicle. However it is done, the rules give everyone a chance of winning a much prized ‘Gold’ medal, the traditional top award for a trial.
Although the three MCC trials share many of the basic characteristics of the ‘One Day’ trials run by the other ACTC member clubs, there are significant differences which make an MCC Trial special:
Firstly, and most significantly, the ethos of MCC events is ‘Competitor versus the Club’ not ‘Competitor versus Competitor’. Although there is a winner in each MCC trial, most people could not tell you who he or she was. The first goal of an MCC trial entrant is to win a Gold Medal, and this is done by climbing all the non-stop hills, and keeping to the time schedule, regardless of the performance of the other riders and drivers. If you fail just one hill you receive a Silver Medal, if you fail two, a Bronze Medal. This differs from most ACTC ‘One Day’ classic trials, and the other trials disciplines, where the penalties on hills are graded from 12 down to 1. The more competitive entrants in an MCC event may also be trying to win a Class Award, or even the Overall Award, by posting the fastest times in the special tests, but first they have to get their Gold Medal. If you are really good, and can win a Gold Medal on all three events in a single year, you can claim the triallists ultimate prize – a Triple Award. There are, however, many regular competitors whose sole aim is to take home a Finishers Certificate and improve on their performance in previous events.
The other feature which makes the MCC events so different from the rest is that they still involve a substantial overnight journey which is in itself an adventure for most people who are habitually in bed before midnight. By the time they would normally be brushing the sleep from their eyes and looking for the cornflakes they have travelled across a large part of England with enough trials and tribulations to provide a talking point for months – or until the next event which they will enter despite all their protestations about ‘never again’. The three main MCC events typically start late on a Friday night and finish, after driving or riding several hundred miles, late on the Saturday afternoon.